We've written before about snakes on a plane, and bees, too, but with this week's recall of 4.1 million Dell laptop batteries because they might suddenly burst into flame -- the biggest such recall ever -- pilots may be wondering if it's a good idea to allow laptops on a plane. Last month, an NTSB hearing about the onboard fire that destroyed a UPS DC-8 in Philadelphia in February focused on lithium-ion batteries. And a Wall Street Journal story earlier this week, prior to the Dell recall, explored concerns about the batteries, citing 60 incidents since 1991 logged by the FAA. In the last two years, five known battery fires have occurred on aircraft, the Journal reported. So should you leave your laptop out of the cockpit?
We asked AOPA for an opinion on that, and spokesman Chris Dancy said they don't have one yet. "Obviously, the owner of a Dell laptop who is also a pilot needs to be aware of the situation, but at this point AOPA is not offering an opinion or advice either way," he wrote to AVweb in an e-mail. The Department of Transportation did issue a rule in December 2004 stating that certain types of large lithium batteries could not be carried on passenger aircraft. The FAA and NTSB so far have not issued any advisories on the matter of laptops, though, so it's up to you. It was unclear at press time if the faulty batteries, which are made by Sony, are also found in other computer brands, including some Apple laptops.